Paws in the Snow: The Untold Story of Avalanche Rescue Dogs

Deep dive into the fascinating world of avalanche rescue dogs

Written by Georgia Hinds

Deep dive into the fascinating world of avalanche rescue dogs – the unsung heroes of the snowy slopes. To kick off the educational tell-all, it is important to understand how to properly approach avalanche dogs in respect to their work. Be sure to always ask their handler for permission before interacting to avoid disrupting their training or focus.

Read on to learn about the training, skills, and incredible stories behind these four-legged saviors who play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Crystal Mountain Ski Resort and local winter enthusiasts.

Alisha and Kio

The Remarkable Training Journey

Discover the rigorous training these canine companions undergo to become proficient avalanche rescue dogs. From scent detection drills to simulated rescue scenarios, we will follow their journey from playful pups to highly skilled members of avalanche search and rescue teams. Training is an ongoing process, and regular practice sessions help maintain and enhance the dog’s skills.

Starting as a Puppy

Training puppies to become avalanche search and rescue dogs involves a gradual and structured process that introduces them to the specific challenges of the alpine environments. Introducing the dogs to the variety of people, terrains, and processes of a ski resort helps them build confidence and become accustomed to the mountain life. The overall goal is to build a strong bond between the dog and the handler to instill reliability and confidence in the dog’s ability to respond to avalanche situations.

Scent Sensation

Diving into the science of a dog’s incredible sense of smell and how it is harnessed for avalanche search and rescue. The primary scent that avalanche dogs are trained to detect are the scent of carbon dioxide and skin cells. When a person is buried under snow, they continue to exhale carbon dioxide, and this scent rises to the surface. Avalanche dogs are trained in a controlled setting to recognize and locate this scent accurately.

Knowing the Terrain

Avalanche dogs are trained not only to detect scents associated with humans buried in snow, but also to navigate and work effectively in challenging alpine terrain. Knowing the terrain is a critical aspect of their training to ensure they can assist in search and rescue operations in avalanche-prone areas.

Meet the Furry Heroes of Crystal Mountain

Get to know some of the remarkable local avalanche rescue dogs and their handlers you’ll see here at Crystal Mountain. Each dog has a unique personality and background, but they all share an unwavering dedication to their mission. Running an owner/handler program has created extraordinary bonds between these loyal canines and their human counterparts.

  • Alisha Bator and Kio
  • Charlie Stuart and Iggy
  • Forest and Anabelle – Cudi
  • Kim Haft worked here for 12 years; Darwin – the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, just passed at 11 ½ years

The Art of Avalanche Rescue


Woof! Woof! Bork Bork Awooo! Sniff Woof Woof Woof!
~ Kio, Crystal Avalanche Dog

Due to an increase on education in the backcountry and advancements in technology, there has been an increase of awareness on avalanche control and how to navigate it safely. Our avalanche dogs have trained to also work with local authorities (search and rescue) for any vast terrain surrounding the resort grounds! Forecasting advancements has helped Crystal Mountain be able to expand their safety patrol team and has set the mountain up for success in avalanche prevention with early detection.

CMRD (Cascade Mountain Rescue Dog’s) is currently working on a big picture goal of advancing the team to be able to be a resource and deploy statewide for any emergencies that could arise.

As we unveil the tales of avalanche rescue dogs, it becomes evident that these furry heroes are an integral part of winter safety. Their training, skills, and the extraordinary bond they share with their handlers make them an indispensable force in the world of avalanche rescue. The next time you hit the slopes, take a moment to appreciate the dedication and courage of these remarkable dogs who stand ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice, ensuring that adventure in the mountains remains safe for all.

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